December 2013 I found myself on the dance floor,live band taking up a third of the living room, at a New Years house party, covered in sweat, surrounded by others, who were proportionately sweaty, doing a combination dancing, and shouting out lyrics to classic songs. Good times.
During the song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen, I bumped into a writer friend, Maria Mcleod. “Ready Freddy!” she shouted, “Freddy! That was the name of my secret crush!” This comment got my attention. I too had a secret crush in school. She shared her story, I shared her mine. We each had a long lasting crush on someone for years, never told anyone.
“I dare you to blog about your crush. To tell the world that you loved that guy all those years!” I shouted over the music. She agreed to the challenge. My story, as promised, is ready and will post this Wednesday.
-Shannon P Laws
Please welcome, first time guest blogger to Madrona Grove, Maria McLeod
Dreams of Freddy Ingles
By Maria McLeod
In second grade I met a boy I would love forever from afar: Freddy Ingles. My first erotic dream, before I even knew what sex was, would feature the two of us, rolling around together, naked atop a billowy cloud. I was nine years old. Forty-one years later, Freddy still visits my dreams, as if we’ve claimed a corner of an alternate universe to continue our would-be relationship. My adult dreams, however, are less fantastical, uneventfully realistic. I’m making my way through a crowded parking lot, or I’m in the grocery store, picking over produce. Suddenly there’s Freddy, passing by pushing a shopping cart. Most of the time, I’m too stunned to speak, but once, in a rare moment of bravery, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked the question I’d wanted to ask all those years ago, “Do you like me?” He began to smile, silently in a way I could not decode. Then I woke up.
Freddy died in the 1992 at the age of 30. He still lived in the area where we had grown up, in southeast Michigan about 50 miles north of Detroit. He was driving a UPS truck. He had married and had a toddler, a little boy, at the time. He didn’t make it across the tracks; his delivery truck collided with an oncoming train. He was airlifted, flown to a hospital whose doctors could not save him. I hadn’t seen him for over a decade, not since just after high school. We were at mass and he was waiting in line to receive communion, passing by my pew, probably unaware I was there. When I heard the news of his death, however, I was living in Pittsburgh and attending graduate school. I remember when my father called to tell me he’d assisted at the funeral – my father is a Deacon – and Freddy (“Fred” by then) and his family had belonged to the same parish.
Freddy’s mother, Janet, was a tall woman who seemed sure of herself, one of those kind and efficient mothers who always wore pants and seemed especially capable of raising boys who would grow to tower over her. Her first husband, Fred senior, had died in 1973, the year before we entered junior high. I remember this because Freddy became the star of the junior high basketball team. From the stands, I cheered – as we all did – for every basket he made and every shot he blocked. Freddy had been caught smoking marijuana in the year following his father’s death. As a penalty, he’d been kicked off the basketball team, an action I still perceive as I did then: a poor decision by adults too caught up with the rules.
My father – who has always known the contents of my heart – reported that he’d spoken to Freddy’s mom at the funeral. He’d said, “Maria always loved Freddy.” He told me that Janet had responded with a smile, “I know, Bob, I know.”
I wondered how she knew? Had Freddy known? Who else knew? I thought, also, of his wife and child who survived him, the horror and the shock of the entirely unexpected. Death by collision with a train? How terrible and ironic that this could be the demise of someone who drives for a living, in Michigan, on the roads he’d been driving all his life, in all manner of weather. And of all people, Freddy?
I had never told him how I felt. Not directly. I never approached him at a junior high dance and asked him to dance with me, not even a fast song when we didn’t have to touch. There had, however, been a couple instances when my affection for Freddy had welled up in me, and I may have given myself away.
In second grade, I climbed up to the top of a snow mound on the playground of Saint Mary’s Catholic school where Freddy and I attended, me in my swish-swish, red snow pants, black rubber boots, and hooded red and pink coat with white piping – Michigan winter wear purchased by my parents at Sears. When I made it to the top, I stood and peered out over the playground of kids throwing snowballs, playing on the swings, and attempting to traverse the monkey bars wearing mittens. The nuns in their black habits watched in a huddle near the red brick school building, just outside the teachers’ lounge. I scanned the area and thought of Freddy who lived nearby and who walked home for lunch, missing most of lunchtime recess.
Overwhelmed by my longing to see him, I shouted out his name from my would-be mountaintop: “F-R-E-D-D-Y,” half expecting his name to echo back to me like in the Sound of Music when Maria frolicked in the Alps. It was then I experienced a sudden shove from behind, and went careening down the side of the snow pile on my back, marveling at the spectacle of sky on my descent. When I slid to a stop, I turned and looked toward the top of the snow hill and, with the sun shining behind him, there was a silhouette in a spray of white winter light. It was Freddy, his coat flapping open, his hands bare of gloves. With the brightness behind him, I couldn’t clearly see his facial expression. I had no idea what he thought of my outburst, and I was dumbstruck as to how he could have suddenly appeared there behind me at the exact moment I could no longer contain myself.
I was not a pretty or popular girl in school, which I realized as early as kindergarten, when social stratification begins to take shape. I was gangly and clumsy and easily distracted. I lived inside a series of daydreams. I had oversized front teeth and a mouth too small to contain them. I was tall, but shoestring slim. Kids joked that if I turned sideways, I’d disappear from sight. My nickname was “skinny bones.”
Freddy, at that age, was already athletic, the youngest boy from a family of handsome and popular older brothers and one older sister. He was tall, like me, and he had blue/gray eyes and curly light brown hair. He seemed smart, on the verge of misbehaving, but generally steering clear of the nuns’ wrath. I could stare at him forever and ever. In our second grade class, I sat in the front row and found every excuse to visit the back of the room, which was where the pencil sharpener was, next to Freddy’s desk. After I’d sharpened my pencil one time too many, the teacher had enough and sent me to the “no-no box” as a punishment for repeatedly leaving my seat. She was sure I was trying to look on other students’ papers for answers. The no-no box was a panel, separated into four segments, hinged. It stood about 4 and half feet high, about shoulder level for most adults. Like the pencil sharpener, it was located at the back of the room, near Freddy, folded into the shape of a box with a chair in the middle. Most often, it was occupied by the boy who couldn’t stop wetting his pants – a problem the teacher assumed required public punishment. It was there I sat for God knows how long, crying, mortified.
The next year my mother and father decided to switch me to public school because they didn’t care for the tactics of the no-no box instructor who carried a can of Lysol, spraying at invisible germs and the kids who spread them. I couldn’t believe it when I realized that Freddy’s parents had decided to transfer him to my same third-grade class. That was also the year our mothers had, by coincidence, bought us matching rust-colored turtlenecks. I wore mine as often as possible, even digging it out of the dirty clothes hamper on the off chance that Freddy might wear his the same day, wedding us in matching fashion.
Eddy Elementary had a playground five times the size of Saint Mary’s, a vast open field that stretched well beyond the jungle gym and swing sets, perfect for kids who loved to run. Freddy, who most often spent recess chasing the pretty, popular girls, would sometimes choose to chase me. I would stand nearby, and when he began running toward me, I would turn my back to him and run as fast as I was able.
My legs and arms buzzed and pulsed, and my wispy brown hair lifted and flew in the air. One time, I tripped on a protruding root of the giant Oak tree, landing on my belly with an “oomph.” I rolled over to look behind just as Freddy caught up, peering down at me. We’d never spoken to each other before. At a loss, I stated the obvious, “I think I tripped.” He looked at me quizzically, and then stuck out his hand, offering to hoist me up. We walked toward the school silently, side-by-side. And, in walking next to him, I felt somehow older, that my world had taken on new weight and meaning. Then Freddy caught sight of another girl he liked to chase, and off he went. I continued to the asphalt part of the playground where the kindergarteners typically gathered to play duck-duck-goose under the watchful eye of their sixth-grade aides. I put my back to the brick wall of the school and slide down it in a daze. I was undaunted. He had taken my hand and pulled me to my feet. Freddy had touched me.
Years later, at a school presentation ceremony for the student athletes, Freddy was called to the stage to receive a basketball award. This was before he’d been kicked off the junior-high team, or perhaps he’d been reinstated. I don’t recall. I can only remember that my body shot up from my seat the moment I heard his name. I stood in the auditorium of about 200 seated kids, momentarily oblivious to where I was, whom I was with, clapping and yelling, “Yay, Freddy.” A row of popular, prettier girls turned and stared at me, incredulous.
Eventually Freddy’s mom remarried, and Freddy transferred school to a neighboring town. I took driver’s ed., got braces, my first period and my first job, working at a drug store – nearly all in the same week. My life opened and reopened, and my daydreams grew to hopes for my adult self, some of which became a reality, like going to college, studying poetry, and becoming a writer. Boys became men, and my love life see-sawed, until I came upon the man I married in my 30s, another writer, trying to realize his own dreams.
As for the summer Freddy moved away, I met a boy from a town up river, experienced my first kiss, and forgot Freddy, except for in my dreams, where Freddy is immortal, and I’m still gearing up to say the words I’ve waited too long to speak.
|Guest Blogger: Maria McLeod
Maria McLeod writes poetry, short fiction, and monologues. She teaches for WWU’s Department of Journalism. She also is the author of “Body Talk: Sexual Triumphs, Trials, and Revelations,” a theatre performance produced in Bellingham, Wash. 2012-13. Maria has performed poetry as part of the following reading series and/or at these venues,: Public Pool, Hamtramck, Mich.; Poet as Art, Lucia Douglass Gallery, Bellingham, Wash.; Poetry Night, Bellingham, Wash.; Parkplace Books, Kirkland; Pittsburgh City Theatre; the Ceres Gallery in New York City; and the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1995.
To learn more about Maria, her projects and writing,
please visit her web sites: